The Courtship of Fashion and Technology
In 1989, the sequel to the critically acclaimed film Back to the Future was released which saw Marty McFly and Doc Brown time travel to 2015, and one of the coolest futuristic item's stood out to every child were the Nikes that Marty McFly wore - and the best part about them? They were self-lacing! Fast forward to October 21st, 2015 the same date as is in the movie and Nike announced the Self-lacing Nike Mag which released in 2016, limited to only 89 pairs. This further led to the sneaker giant creating a new product line called the HyperAdapt, which was commercially available and had built-in self-lacing technology.
This was perhaps one of the first glimpses we saw of what happens when technology and fashion converge on a large scale, eventually kick-starting a trend in the tech industry that led to the rise of what is now known as Smart ‘Wearables’.
Gone are the days of LED light-up hats from our childhood - products like the Apple Watch that lead the global smartwatch sales with 12.9 million sales in the last quarter of 2020, play a far more crucial role in our daily lives now all the way from reminding us when to drink water to tracking our workouts and giving us our notifications. An everyday accessory that was designed not to be bulky or geeky looking but to, instead, seamlessly blend in with your outfits and match your attire no matter what you wear, the Apple Watch is an important example of how these wearable tech products maintain a focus on not just the function but the aesthetic as well, a factor that significantly contributed to their success and overall use.
Another crucial example of this is the Google Glass. Created in 2014, the Google Glass was marketed as the latest and greatest in wearable technology, allowing users to have their notifications, maps, etc. all in their glasses. Advertised as "an extension of yourself", Google released the glasses for $1500, and surprisingly the issue most people had with the product wasn't it's hefty price-tag - it just wasn’t attractive. The clunky and unflattering eyewear just didn't have the mass appeal, despite its technological innovations, and ended up being discontinued only a year later.
Speaking of smart-glasses, nowadays the smart-eyewear have built-in smart assistants and even work as wireless earphones like the Bose Frames, the Echo Frames or even the Snapchat Spectacles which have a camera built into the frame and can record 10 second clips that directly get saved to your Snapchat account! So why do these work? What’s different about these compared to the Google Glass? The biggest differences are price and style. These were priced lower than the Google Glass making them more accessible and, more importantly, they were stylish - they were designed to look like high-end glasses, and were made to go with all your outfits! This is the one of the biggest steps technology is taking - how to integrate accessibility and usability, while maintaining style and class.
Glasses are not the only example of technology and fashion merging. Accessories are constantly being innovated and tailored to match our expectations of a technological future. NOVA is a Munich-based startup that has worked on earrings that also transmit audio. Beautifully crafted freshwater pearls held by either a gold or silver-plated clip but what makes them unique is something called ‘Directional Sound’. Patented technology by the company, Directional Sound sends any sound straight to your ear canal from the earlobe and there is no sound leak to keep your music and conversation private.
We are even witnessing the rise of smart rings such as Oura or Motiv which are created to track our sleep, monitor our fitness and some can even store your debit/credit or RTA cards, so you can use the ring to make payments or even use the metro! Fun fact: these type of accessories are nicknamed ‘camouflaged tech’.
But our accessories aren’t where it stops - even our clothes are becoming smarter. Google’s Project Jacquard partnered up with many different companies to create a whole new accessible smart-wearable product range. One of these is their collaboration with Levis where they came together to create a denim trucker jacket that connects to your smartphone and can then control your phone to take photos or change the song by pressing the sleeve of the jacket in a certain spot.
Another collaboration they did was with Adidas and EA Sports to create a smart shoe that aimed to connect the real world with the digital gaming world. These shoes allowed you to measure your kicks, distance, and shot power and could be uploaded to compete with other people, and even synced to your game to earn rewards.
We see our technology becoming an extension of who we are and how we express ourselves and this is clearly being reflected in the direction that technology and fashion are taking - from simple light up led shoes that we enjoyed as children to shoes that can self-lace or track our movements and turn fitness into a fun game.
With all this influencing what's in your pockets and what we use on a daily basis, its only a matter of time before every part of our lives is integrated with technology (maybe even our bodies themselves!) in an effort to make life easier and make activities more accessible.